“Amish Puppy Mill” Comments

As I expected, some folks were not too excited about my take on “Amish puppy mills” in yesterday’s post, which is fine.  I thought I’d explore the issue a little further and have pasted a comment I made on that post here below:

I think my main point here is that every Amish breeder is not a ‘puppy miller’…just because it’s an Amish-raised dog doesn’t mean it was treated like garbage. Personally, I love dogs, pugs are my favorite, etc. and I hate to think of any animal being treated poorly (both cute and non-cute animals, pets and livestock). But I just think that people latch on to a relatively low number of stories and suddenly every Amish breeder becomes a ‘puppy miller’. Perhaps my impression is wrong on that. Of course it may depend on how you define the term ‘puppy mill’ as well.

The other thing is that it is interesting to me how certain animals have higher emotional value than others. Pets are even considered ‘family members’ by some, or something close to that, and therefore rank differently than an animal we eat, even though both feel pain, discomfort, etc. If we look at all animal life as being equal, we should be equally upset about poorly treated cows and chickens and so on.

There is a gradation of value regarding animal life, and puppies, dogs and other pets sit atop that pyramid.

And sometimes with certain people it even seems animal life becomes more valuable than human life. In my opinion that is unfortunate.

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    1. I love your blog. For an English person, you “get” the Amish about as well as anyone I know. However, I think you are wrong about puppy mills, and particularly you are out of line in repeating the old canard that “sometimes with certain people it even seems animal life becomes more valuable than human life.” The Amish puppy mills aren’t raising dogs because otherwise they would starve. There are many, many Amish dog breeders who run clean operations and do not mistreat their animals. However, there are also many who do, and for those who do, like the brothers who shot 60 dogs rather than have them examined by a vet, they should be exposed for the criminals they are. Those of us who grew up on farms have a different relationship with animals than city folks do. The Amish, by and large, see animals purely in their utilitarian roles and not as family members. That is hard for people who are attached to their animals to accept. But, even recognizing those cultural differences, in the 21st century, it is not acceptable to raise dogs in cramped pens without adequate sanitation, ventilation and exercise. And to complain about that does not mean that one is more concerned about people than animals.

      1. KC

        Amish and Dogs

        Amen to what Crockhead says about not raising “dogs in cramped pens without adequate sanitation, ventilation and exercise”. It is not acceptable. Anybody who has ever had a dog for a companion knows that they are so much more than just animals. They truly show love and affection, sometimes more than people do. That doesn’t mean that I value dogs more than people. It is just a comment from somebody who has been fortunate enough to be able to share my life with many dogs over the years. As for Matt, some of us do not believe that deer should be hunted or that mice should be killed in mouse traps or that fur-bearing animals should be trapped (there is absolutely no reason for anybody to wear real fur today).

    2. Matt from CT

      Then why is the shooting of a dog considered “bad” but hunting deer with a firearm — or even worse, an arrow — is not? Or taken even further, the legal trapping of fur bearers in non-lethal traps?

      Clearly we’re establishing different standards for some animals; the rationality for that is however not clear.

      IMHO, the only logical argument against puppy mills is the lack of human and potentially other canine socialization they tend to encourage. These are animals, largely, intended for the companion animal market and should be raised in a manner to do well as companion animals. As to the conditions of their cages, etc they should be subject to the same humane standards as any other livestock — where that conflicts with raising them well socialized, that’s the problem…not that the conditions may be perceived as “inhumane” by persons who either raise certain animals above others in how they expect them to be treated, or are overly sensitive and seek conditions for animals that far exceed humane minimums.

      I wonder how many people who cringe at puppies being shot have no qualms at setting mouse traps?

    3. Matt, this is really a good point that I’d never really considered–the idea of pups being a part of an inherently different market, the ‘companion animal’ market. So does that dictate that they would need to be raised with human companionship? I don’t know. It’s interesting. Would it differ for breeds that are more aggressive/violent?

      How much human contact do pups typically get from breeders? And again, how essential is it for their well-being, or is the companionship of other dogs sufficient? I derfinitely don’t have the answers to those questions but it’s an interesting point you raise.

    4. I raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and also have an interest in the Amish. When I’ve been in Amish areas, especially in Amish homes, I’ve paid attention to how dogs were treated. To my surprise, many Amish families have “lap dogs”…small dogs whom they clearly adore–living in their homes, cuddled in their arms, feeding them from the table. No different than an English woman with a dog in her purse walking through Nordstrom’s! Just another example of how important it is not to assume the media is correct, and not to lump a group of people (250,000 of them, at last count) under one label. People are people, Amish or English.

    5. Mennonite dog-shooting?, Amish puppy mills

      Crockhead, thanks for the comment, that is really kind of you. I do appreciate it.

      I get what you’re after here–though as far as ‘animal life versus human life’, I was trying to make more of a broader point about where people focus their energies. Particularly with the situation in America, the ‘choices’ available today, and so on. Human lives are on the line in various circumstances and, and this is just my opinion, if you are going to exert so much energy in protecting something, there are plenty of cases where you can direct those efforts toward helping fellow humans.

      Without getting into politics, I hope you get what I am intuiting here.

      Though I don’t mean that simply being against animal cruelty automatically means that you care more about animals than humans. Some go to extremes, though. And some people simply have different values. I personally don’t agree with that, but that’s all I can say on it.

      You make an excellent point on utilitarian value. For a dog breeder, pups are a commodity, like any other animal on the farm. Growing up on a farm, as you say, makes one see animals in a different way.

      As an aside, by these posts I hope I won’t be misunderstood by anyone as saying that it’s okay to abuse animals. Though I don’t think I will.

      On another note, going through an old Family Life recently, I came across a piece entitled ‘HOT SOWS’. It was a description by someone in Iowa of how to design a water-drip cooling system to keep pigs comfortable in the hot summer. I thought that was interesting. Muddy hogs are about as far down the spectrum from cute pups as you can get. But someone cares about keeping them cool. Don’t know if the writer was Amish, Mennonite, or of some other group.

      And not to split hairs, but on the dog-shooting case, are you by chance referring to the Zimmerman brothers? I actually thought they were members of a Mennonite church but were cited incorrectly as Amish in the article. At least I don’t know of any Zimmerman Amish. But I may be wrong.

      One of my main challenges on this issue is that it is difficult to discern outside of hearsay and what gets covered in the news, how many pup breeders actually mistreat their dogs. Is it many? Is it a few? Selling books in Amish communities, I visited a fair handful of Amish homesteads. I have seen quite a few breeeders’ operations firsthand, though this was through the eyes of a non-expert, and not a vet. But I never saw anything resembling what these puppy mills are described to be. Most if not all seemed to me like lively, clean, healthy-looking dogs.

      I also feel that the economics of it dictates that the Amish would take good care of their commodities, in this case pups. Just like they keep their woodshops clean and their ducks in a row with their construction companies, and so on. Like any other business. One thing people repeatedly comment on when they talk about the output of Amish businesses is the level of high quality. I don’t get why it would be any different across the board when it comes to their output of pups.

      Though some may say just keeping dogs in cages qualifies as a puppy mill situation. Again, the problem of terminology.

      Anyway, I feel it is a more complicated matter than it first appears. It’s a very interesting issue, (though of course, an unpleasant one). But I’m more than glad to hear any other perspectives.

    6. Marcia

      I think the point was about how the Amish, as a whole, is sometimes “labeled” for one particular incident – whether it being related to puppy mills or selling used cars.

    7. Helen Parnell-Berry

      I think Marcia got the same impression I did; how Erik was trying to point out that some people have the view that if you get one Amish puppy mill then all amish dog breeders must run puppy mills. Unfortunately, in this modern age, where we’re supposed to be more open minded and enlightened, there will always be those people out there too ignorant to get their facts straight. After all, it is far easier to lump all the bad and good eggs in the same basket than take the trouble to look and see that actually there are far more good eggs than bad ones. A prime example is people of the Islamic faith. Here in the UK there is a significant minority of native Brits that consider all Moslems terrorists. Nothing could be further from the truth.
      Sorry, rambling again. By the way, about animal cruelty; it is a sad fact that people can live next door to a family where one or more children are being neglected, abused or both and do and say nothing. However, if there’s a dog, cat or other non-human life form being abused, neglected or both they call the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). So, yes, Erik, there a whole lot of people who are more concerned about the welfare of animals than of humans.
      And here endeth the sermon from England.

    8. Erik, I understand what you’re getting at and mostly I agree. I just start getting uptight when I hear the line that some people care more about animals than people. There might be people like that (Leona Helmsley leaving millions of dollars for her dog; way more than for her children, might be one example.) Maybe we should just say it’s wrong to mistreat people and dogs.

      I have seen two Amish dog breeding operations, and both of them made me uncomfortable. One of them was run by a cousin and was not a big operation, but the dogs were not kept in a condition that looked sanitary and healthy to me — a nonexpert, admittedly. Their quarters were cramped; the little space they had for exercise was muddy, although the dogs did not look sick or hungry. If someone were raising calves or pigs in the same quarters, I don’t think anyone would raise any eyebrows. My cousin is a good man and I don’t think was intentionally doing anything cruel, but he saw the dogs like he saw other livestock. I don’t think that’s how the rest of society sees dogs.

    9. Do Amish have dogs for pets?

      Suzanne it’s interesting in that many Amish have dogs as pets and care for them in ways that non-Amish would. There seems to be a disconnect or a line drawn between the family pet and the dogs in the kennels. But yes, many if not most Amish homes have a dog or dogs as pets.

      Marcia it is easy to do that, especially since the ‘Amish’ tag is applied to stories where otherwise it would be irrelevant. This usually draws extra attention and helps to contribute to people forming particular opinions about the group, even if the story examined is atypical.

    10. Dave Carrig

      just as soon as they shut the abortion clinic down the road I’ll start worrying about puppy mills…

      1. Annette

        Why can’t we care about BOTH? I have been BOTH an animal welfare activist AND a pro-life activist since 1975. And you?

    11. Willa

      Obviously in every group, there are responsible, caring people and there are others. However, I thought that Anabaptists hold to the biblical tenet that animals do not have souls, and that animals are put on the earth for humans to use. I would think that would lead to a more brusque treatment than a worldview that suggested animals and people both inherit the earth.

    12. Mattea Dimitri

      I felt sorry for the honest mennonite interviewed on the nightline clip the other night.It is obvious to me that main line are animal RIGHTS activists not animal welfare people. I have worked with a vet for many years and would like to know how a vet tech(minimal schooling) can tell that a dog has had several c-sections(oh and don’t forget ,somehow assuming that if the dog had c-sections, they were done without anesthesia)How ignorant! First of all in my over 30 yrs involved in a Vet office,I have yet to see a Golden retriever have a c-section. Second of all, the animal being examind,did not look to be any unhealthier than most of the ones we have seen from Joe publics’ backyard.How absoulutely twisted these programs are getting.They want to make it appear that any animal not living how they think one is living,is abused.I did not see any animals starving,unkempt or with cage rage in that clip.Also which is the right weay to raise a dog(like the indoor usda facility we saw,very clean) or God forbid outside like where to poor labs were shown,in a fence with green grass underfoot?I mean what will ever please people who want to JUDGE?Maybe all of the breeders should just kindly euthanize their animals when they retire them, that way all of these fools full of judgement would go away.

    13. Rich K

      I just read the articles on Amish and puppy mills and read most of the comments. I am really amazed about all the responses. I am a proud owner of a dog I bought from an Amish family in Pa and they were wonderful. I would like to tell everyone some of the things I discovered. These dogs had there own house and were allowed to run in the yard. The breeder had one female dog which was used for breeding. I was allowed to see her and play with her. She was such a pleasant, healthy six year old dog and she was great with people. I brought my puppy home and she is fabulous with everone. There are puppy mills in the world and I’m sure some may be Amish, but I can bet most puppy mills are not Amish. If a puppy mill is discovered and it is owned by an Amish person, it makes the news nationwide and it is implied that all Amish are puppy mill breeders. This can be nothing further then the truth. Is it bad for a dog to have a small house with a run to breed puppies in, or is a cold room in the basement better? I’m just tired of all the Amish breeder bashing. Am I a bad person because I like a certain breed of dogs? I didn’t adopt a dog from a shelter so am I a bad person? I don’t think so. I was looking for a particular type of dog for my family which I found and love. Is the person who owned my puppies’ mother and took care of my puppy for the first few months of her life not entitled to make a few dollars?. It is not a breeder’s fault that dogs end up in shelters, its bad dog owners. Just for the record I did visit shelters with my family prior to purchasing my puppy. Just because the Amish may not have there dogs’ sleeping in their bed doesn’t make them bad dog owners.

    14. Erin

      Not all Amish breeders are puppy mill breeders. i got my puppy from a caring honest Mennonite family. Who took care of all their dogs, made sure they are checked for health problems, give them plenty of room, feed them properly, do not have them in small cages, etc. Don’t forget other kinds of people have puppy mills too. They’re all over, why is it the Amish are the particular group being red flagged for it? That seems very prejudice to me to be honest.

      1. Star

        Amish/Mennonite call dogs Livestock

        It isn’t prejudice! They call dogs “livestock”. We rescued a female Jack Russell THEY said was 3 years old but she was more like 8. She’d been terribly abused, was not housebroken, her teeth were rotten and, of course, she was not spayed. We took her because we could not stand to see her so mistreated. Today (3 months later)she is in excellent health, is housebroken, is so appreciative of a loving home, good food, toys and is very loyal and trustworthy. In other words, she is a perfect companion! She never knew any of those things before. Those people should not be allowed to sell anything outside their own group. It’s horrible! Don’t they realize the program Amish Mafia is just making fun of them?